December 11, 2015

Sinatra’s 100th Birthday

For Frank Sinatra's 100th Birthday: stories, tributes, and attempts to understand the Chairman of the Board.

An updated version of an episode originally broadcast back in 1997.


Host Ira Glass, with a recording of a 1962 Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr., appearance at the Villa Venice, a club outside Chicago. What's fascinating about Sinatra is how he is so many different people at once, and they're all on display in this recording: sentimental crooner, cruel woman-baiter, bully, goofball. Writer Rennie Sparks makes the case that Sinatra is mesmerizing because he's every man, every possible man, all rolled into one. (8 minutes)
Act Three

History Lesson

Ira and music contributor John Conners on Sinatra's worst songs. And a brief history of what makes that 1950s Sinatra sound so great, with Will Friedwald, author of the definitive book on Sinatra's music, Sinatra! The Song Is You: A Singer's Art. (3 minutes)
Act Four

The Death of Frank Sinatra

Michael Ventura, who grew up Sicilian in New York, says that as a kid he thought Sinatra was in his family. His book The Death of Frank Sinatra is not really about Sinatra. It's about men like Ventura, who drew part of their style and sense of self from Frank. He reads from the only section in the book where Sinatra actually appears: an account of a Sinatra concert, circa 1994. He says he wanted to write about the older Sinatra because the older Sinatra contains all the ages of Sinatra. All of them come forward when he sings. (11 minutes)

Act Five

Chairman of the Block

An odd occurrence at 124 East Fourth Street in Manhattan's East Village. For the last five weeks, a singer named Nick Drakides has stood on the stoop singing Sinatra songs late at night to the delight of his neighbors. The cops don't bust them; the crowds behave. It's his gift to New York. Blake Eskin tells the story. (11 minutes)